This paper deals with the trends, issues and challenges that are being faced by the public personnel. These trends and issues may be categorized under (1) Management practices; (2) technology; and (3) Economic and Politics. Governments all over the world should learn this time what to do with their public personnel so that they can become more efficient and more effective in the face of all the mentioned challenges. .
Public or Civil Service is a big part of the lives of the citizens of a nation whether they want it or not. There are a number of government agencies that require the services of public servants and professionals. These professionals are free from the political affiliations of people who serve in the bureaucracy. There are developments in the society, in the technology and other areas of management that have an impact in the lives of public personnel. This essay explores these new trends, strategies, approaches by looking at different areas that affect the lives and performance of public personnel.
These new trends, issues and emerging practices will be divided into three major categories: management practices, technology and economic situation. The first category deals mainly with the emerging issues in management such as diversity, the rights and benefits of public personnel and how the government is reacting to these trends. Secondly, the technological advancements that impact the work of public personnel will be looked at, carefully noting how these are revolutionizing the way that public personnel do their work. Lastly, the economic developments in the United States and the world will also be noted together with their impact on the lives of workers in the Civil service sector.
The government as an employer should take note of these developments and keep up with the times. Oftentimes, however, bureaucracy tends to react too slowly to the changes going on in the world. If this is the case, the public personnel will be disadvantaged. Nonetheless, this paper will also put forward several recommendations as to how the plight of public personnel could be improved by the government through the effective and efficient use of resources in their respective organizations.
One of the most important developments in public personnel in the twenty-first century is the increasing recognition of diversity in the operations of public offices and agencies. Such diversity stems from the multicultural fabric of the American society. There are African Americans, Asians, Europeans and Latino in the United States.
It is impossible to exclude these people from becoming public personnel if they possess the skills and the educational requirements of serving in the Civil Service. Through the victories won by the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the past forty years or so, the US has come a long way in granting equal rights and opportunities to people of various skin colors.
The immigration to the US has also continued in the past few years that the demographic has changed. Through the process of globalization, more and more people from various nations are coming to the United States. Managing a diverse workforce is therefore becoming an imperative for most corporations and multinational companies in the US. This should also be the case with public personnel (Farazmand, 2007).
There are a number of benefits that workforce diversity could offer to public offices and agencies. For one, perspectives and viewpoints in the office concerning pressing issues and concerns will be diverse, thus, providing the decision maker with the ability to look at different angles before making important decisions. Without diversity, people will, more or less, look at something from virtually same lenses and perspectives. With diversity, however, there are new perspectives that could enable a broader look at issues plaguing the civil service and the rest of the society.
One factor that influences the occurrence of diversity in both private and public organizations is the prevalence of migration and mobility of labor. People from diverse backgrounds often find themselves mingling with people from other nationalities (Mavin & Girling, 2000). Diversity, however, is more than just a collection of nationalities within the organization. Rather, there are several sources of diversity that can serve as a point of conflict within the organization—public or private. Managing diversity, therefore, is an art that most public agencies and organizations should be dealt with effectively. These sources of diversity include gender, race, ethnicity, linguistic barriers, sexual preferences and religion.
As stipulated in the Constitution and the laws of the United States, these kinds of differences should in no way affect the employment of persons or prevent them from enjoying the privileges accorded to any person within the civil service of the country. The problem, however, is that, in a setting such as the public agencies and organizations, there are persons who may have strong feelings, prejudices and biases against any of these sources of diversity and they may condescend to those who are not like them. As such, they might not be able to get along with certain kinds of people in the civil service.
Multiculturalism and the prevalence of diversity should be met with effective public personnel management strategies. The management should not be reactive and act as if they are always pacifying people, trouble-shooting problems and ironing out conflicts. Rather, diversity should be managed well by allowing practices and the organizational culture to become attuned to diversity. After all, the labor force has become heterogeneous and there seems to be no way to stop that at this stage (Sippola, 2005).
Proactive management of diversity entails understanding the cultural and other differences among different peoples who belong to the organization. This also helps the management become more attuned to the composition of the public personnel workforce and make the necessary recommendations in terms of managing these personnel.
Diversity is one thing that could help the organization thrive in the highly competitive world of the twenty-first century. Through diversity, the perspective of an organization becomes broader and the way in which the organization reaches out to people belonging to different groups.
There is an increasing sense of job insecurity in the United States, work hours cannot be completely controlled and the leadership style of managers may sometimes be unsuitable to that of the expectations of the organization. The well-being of the organization should not be compromised (Sparks, Faragher, & Cooper, 2001).
The Need for Entrepreneurial Leadership
Another problem plaguing the bureaucracy and the civil service in general is too much reliance on tried and tested formula without exploring new possible ways of dealing with different problems and challenges that the government agencies are facing. Too often, leaders in the government fail to look beyond the proverbial horizon of their respective agencies. As such, what happens is that they rely on previous records, previously successful formula rather than on carefully crafted strategies that address the present situation of their organizations. This is where entrepreneurial leadership comes in.
One of the keywords closely associated with entrepreneurship is innovation. This is the continuous pursuit for improvement and looking for new areas to improve the operations of the organization. If this were present in most public agencies, then the personnel can be empowered as they become more effective and efficient in fulfilling their tasks. Unnecessary delays and red tape in the public offices tend to affect the level of innovativeness of public agencies in information technology and other areas of operation (Moon & Bretschneiber, 2002).
Entrepreneurship is also closely associated with risk. If managers are willing to engage in risk in the name of innovation, then the organization will become bolder in pursuing entrepreneurship and innovation. When this happens, the followers will emulate the example of the bosses, and they, themselves, will engage in efforts and action that could lead to a more efficient and effective public service organization.
Internet, Web 2.0 and Business Applications
The twenty-first century is marked by break-neck speed of technological breakthroughs and innovation. The world is still reeling from the impact of near instantaneous communication. The possibilities seem to be endless. When one company offers a product, three weeks later, a rival presents another product that is better and usually smaller than the one previously being offered. These technologies are changing the landscape of public personnel management, including the way in which business and office work are being done. These emerging technologies are outlined in the next discussion.
The Internet. The world is very much connected now, thanks to the wonder that is the Internet. With the number of websites all over the world today, the Internet has become a storehouse of articles and knowledge. Through these websites and other features of the Internet, readers and other users are able to check out the most recent breakthroughs in various fields of study in the world. More than that, with a simple click on the mouse, research can be undertaken. This means that workers can do more now that they are connected to the rest of the world (Sullivan & Lewis, 2002).
Technology allowing workers to log on to the company intranet even while in a long distance from the office is now available. This is called remote access and makes use of the network of the Internet while putting forward a security means to protect the company from breach and security compromise (Sullivan & Lewis, 2002).
Email is another important factor of the internet that has come to the fore of business operations in the past few years. Without email, the world will continue to rely on snail mail, which is a much slower and inefficient means of communication. With email, the sender can directly type in the message on the computer screen, hit the send button and then wait for a few seconds before the receiver opens the email. Another great thing about emails is that they can be used as vehicle of sending over large files over long distances (Sullivan & Lewis, 2011).
Voice over internet Protocol. Another interesting feature of the Internet that has recently come to the attention of the world is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This significantly lowered the cost of voice communications over the Internet. This feature has been integrated into various instant messaging protocols such as Skype, Windows Messenger, AIM and Yahoo Messenger among others.
It is also possible now to hold live video and audio streaming. This has implications in holding video conferences over vast areas of land and territory. Hence, live video and audio streaming can help public agencies lower the cost of communication as they meet online. The security of information passed over the Internet is another important concern that must be addressed. Hence, the developments in Internet security and anti-virus technologies help users protect the users and the data that they are feeding and manipulating in the Internet. Information is a very important asset, particularly for public agencies that are serving the broader public. Thanks to the efforts of developers and anti-virus companies, most hackers are kept at bay and prevented from wreaking havoc in the systems of public agencies (Jackson & van der Wielen, 1998).
The Internet, together with sound IT infrastructure is already installed in most public agencies. This enables the agencies to dispense social services more quickly and more efficiently. Without technology, such social services will be inaccessible to several sectors in the society (Jones & Dages, 2003). Given the many distractions at work, however, more and more managers realize the importance of introducing regulations and control mechanisms concerning the websites that may be accessed by the public personnel at work. While they are at work, if the IT system is open, then they can listen to music while at the same time enjoy the resources for their own personal use.
The reality of digital distraction and information overload among workers is also looming over the twenty-first century public personnel. As such, there should be a means of ensuring that only information pertinent to the job of the public personnel are accessed by the workers during the work session. Otherwise, they will be subject to information overload. Information technology at work is a double-edged sword. It can get a lot of things done but if improperly used, it may also be harmful to the productivity and overall performance of an individual worker (Jackson & van der Wielen, 1998).
The twenty-first century has been hailed as the coming of the knowledge economy where the workers are not only dealing with products and services but rather, they are dealing with information, data and knowledge. As such, technology is a prerequisite for the effective functioning of the public personnel in various areas of government and operations of such agencies.
Teleworking and Telecommuting in the Public Sector
The advances and breakthroughs in the technology mentioned above paved the way for the emergence of teleworking and telecommuting among the professionals in the United States. There emerged a new brand of professionals who do not have to report to the office of the agency as long as they are doing the job they have agreed to. Although telecommuting is not a new phenomenon, it has been around since the late 1980s. The only difference now is that the technology has made it so much convenient for teleworkers to thrive in the present system (DiMartino and Wirth, 1990).
As long as a teleworker has access to computer and good internet connection, he may deliver the work he agreed to. There are also a number of telecommuters from other countries who do the work for the public and private sectors in the United States. Another related process being utilized nowadays is outsourcing. Workers and companies outside of the United States establish partnerships with companies in the US so they can handle the operations of some areas of business.
With the increasing popularity of outsourcing and telecommuting, the organization should arrive at a sound plan how to manage these kinds of worker. Of primary concern is the growth of teleworkers as professionals in their field and how they get the services that they deserve (Cooper, & Kurland, 2002).
Teleworking has a number of impacts on the public personnel. It might be opted by employees who are taking care of a family member at home needing special attention, by a mother who wants to spend more time with her kids or by any other professional who simply wants this kind of arrangement. Teleworking is being used in the private sector but it can also be implemented in the public sector.
Teleworking may be considered as a really radical departure from the usual mode of working as public personnel. Teleworkers enjoy an immense level of flexibility in terms of fulfilling their role and still pursuing other interests that they want to pursue.
Teleworking, however, may be considered as a security breach in an organization that holds sensitive information in its data bank. In addition to this, teleworking introduces a level of uncertainty and difficulty in managing people. This is why, management should look into an acceptable means of accommodating both the usual full-time staff and those who have opted for teleworking.
As the public sector start dealing with teleworking, it should carefully look into the pros and cons of the arrangement. Through this, they can maximize the presence of the teleworker in the organization while at the same time, making sure that its pitfalls are removed or at least minimized.
Individual worker is really at the center of the teleworking arrangements. As long as there is an internet connection and computer, the teleworker can deliver his work. If possible, the organization should also undertake psychological tests to ascertain whether a certain employee is ready for the rigors and loneliness of the being a teleworker.
Economy and Politics
Because of the rapid advances in communication and transportation technologies and the inter-relationships between and among the countries of the world, the nations are being brought closer together in a process known as globalization (Tomlinson, 1999).
The changes being brought about by globalization are far-reaching and broad because it targets the politics, economics, culture and other areas of life (Castles, 2001). Globalization can no longer be ignored because it has impinged on important processes that go on in the society. It is also not just a national issue but a worldwide one. If this process continues, then the world can become a borderless society in which labor and other resources can move freely without a lot of hassle.
In the management of public personnel, globalization has also become a real issue that must be dealt with by the bureaucracy. Globalization is also attacking the established authority of the state over a certain territory, such as a nation-state. The role of the state and the government, therefore, is changing under the relentless impact of globalization.
The focus of globalization is efficiency, decentralization and the trimming down of the bureaucracy. In terms of public personnel, this means letting go of a lot of employees and retaining only those who process the core processes and who are able to continue the operations of the agencies that will be affected. With globalization, this means that there will be greater decentralization and deregulation of power and autonomy (Bevir, Rhodes & Weller, 2003).
The government, however, cannot simply do that without major repercussions. There has to be a careful study as to the kind of jobs and personnel that will be retained and which positions will be let go. If possible, will there be roles that can be combined? This way, the government will be able to save money while at the same time ensuring that the processes being looked after by the public personnel will be continued.
The twenty-first century world is very dynamic. Technologies are changing very rapidly, the relationships between and among the countries of the world are becoming stronger. Economies are trading more freely and governments are still in charge of running their own respective territories. This is being done with the help of public personnel who are in the bureaucracy and who are continuously serving the needs of the government and of the people they are serving.
There are three main areas of concern that impact the changes in public personnel. These are in the areas of Management Practices, Technology, and Economics. Of particular interest is the increasing popularity and significance of workplace diversity and the manner in which public organizations should deal with it so that it can maximize its impact and its efficiency. In addition to this, the advances in technology is paving the way for alternative modes of working such as teleworking and telecommuting. Lastly, globalization also has an important impact on the way that public personnel are being treated and how the public sector can generate savings from the process.
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Cooper, CD & Kurland, NB (2002). Telecommuting, professional isolation, and employee development in public and private organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23 (4), 511-532.
Daniels, K., Lamond, DA, & Stranden, P. (2000). Managing Telework. New York: CENGAGE Learning.
Farazmand, A (2007). Strategic Public Personnel Administration. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Jackson, P. and Van der Wielen, J. (1998). Teleworking. Routledge, London.
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Moon, MJ & Breschneiber, S (2002). Does the Perception of Red Tape Constrain IT Innovativeness in Organizations? Unexpected Results from a Simultaneous Equation Model and Implications. Journal of Publication Research and Theory, 12 (2), 273-292.
Sippola, A. (2005). HRM of a Diverse Workforce: Challenges of Emerging Cultural Diversity. Proceedings of the 18th Scandinavian Academy of Management (NFF) Conference, Aarhus, Denmark, 18-20 August 2005.
Sparks, K., Faragher, B & Cooper, CL (2001). Well-being and occupational health in the 21st century workplace. Journal of Occupational and Organizational.
Sullivan, C & Lewis, S. (2002). Home-based Telework, Gender, and the Synchronization of Work and Family: Perspectives of Teleworkers and their Co-residents. Gender, Work and Organization, 8 (2), 123-145.
Tomlinson, J. (1999) Globalization and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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